Tag Archives: indie

First Impression: Cave Digger (PC – Steam) ~ Diggy Diggy Dig. (Non-VR Version)

capsule_616x353-1Steam store page

At least once every two or three months, I get an email from a developer who is asking me to review their VR-game. I always have to decline since I quite easily get migraine attacks from VR headsets and that’s one of the main reasons why I don’t play VR and don’t even own a VR headset. Now, why am I taking a look at a VR game then? Well, because the developers of “Cave Digger” made a non-VR version of this game and asked me to write an honest review about their game. So, a VR game that went “Non-VR”, is it any good, or should it remain a VR-game? Let’s dive right into the caves while I invite you to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. (A press code was provided by the developer to write this article)

Diggy Diggy Dig

Cave-Digger-PC-Edition-3dIn this game, you play as a digger for the Frontier. For the first part of the game, the story doesn’t have a big hook to pull you in. But, the further you get into the game, the bigger the actual hook gets. If you want to enjoy most of the story in this game, I highly advise you to take the second radio station on your train since it describes the mystery a lot better. More on that later.

The goal in this game is that you not only uncover the mystery in this game but you also rebuild the city with the riches you find down in the caves. The more you explore the cave, the more information you get from hidden parts of the caves where a lot of jewels and riches reside that might help you earn more money and buy more upgrades. 

So, what is the mystery about? To stay as spoiler-free as I can, it’s about a hidden ancient civilization that might still be alive or too advanced for our human race. So, in the alternative western setting, you have to make a decision about what to do. I have been playing this game for 3 to 4 hours now and I haven’t met another human character… Physically that is. Most of the story is told over the radio. And I do have a complaint about it. 

The voice acting of the characters is good. It pulls you into the story without an issue. Now, English isn’t my native language and while I’m quite good at speaking it, sometimes I enjoy it when there are subtitles when a word or an expression is used that I don’t know. Sadly enough, this game doesn’t have subtitles. That’s a big bummer. 

It would have been great if there was some sort of archive of previous broadcasts. It would be a great help to those who took a (long) break while playing this game to catch up at what’s happening or to re-listen again in case you missed some parts. 

At first, I thought that this game was going to be quite linear, but that is far from the truth. Since this game has 9 different endings. Yes, the replay value of this game is quite high. Now, I haven’t encountered one of the endings so far but I’m quite curious to see them. So, when I have beaten the game and I write a follow-up review article, I’ll talk more in-depth about the endings. One thing I’m going to say already is that there funny and interesting easter eggs in this game that add a whole lot of charm to the game.

Two Ways Exploration

There are two ways you can explore, you can go to the elevator and the train. The main game is going on an adventure with your train. But, it’s easy to earn money by exploring with the elevator. You need to do both since some items to progress in the game without going into a crazy grinding mode is by buying the items at the elevator. 

The gameplay of the “two modes” are also quite different. In the elevator, you can have secret vault doors, but I don’t know how to interact with them. Most likely, I haven’t found the correct tool. You also get three different stages where you get 30 seconds to mine out resources or collect artifacts. After 30 seconds, you move on to the next section. I find that it’s quite easy to throw a stick of dynamite to the walls and use the vacuum glove to collect all the gems before they disappear into the edges of the elevator. Oh yes, that happens during the transition of the sections as well. 

So, let’s talk about train exploration. With this train, you go into the caves where you have various places you can go to get materials and explore. At first, the train goes extremely slowly but the further you upgrade your train, the faster you will be able to travel. Thankfully, there are warp points to certain landmarks so you don’t have to restart your whole travel each and every run. 

The tutorial only explains the basic controls. But the rest is up to you to actually figure out on your own. How you safely extract fossils and oil from the caves, it’s up to you to figure out. Even what the strange golden statues are doing on several dig sites.

Now, to collect the goodies, you have to throw them in the deposit box in your train. Before I got the glove, I found it extremely annoying to pick up the items one by one and deposit them. When I discovered that the glove allows you to suck up several items at once, I found that the game opens up a lot more. Also, it doesn’t take long before you meet your chest buddy who is also a deposit point and even eats up whole piles of gems and deposits them for you. 

Now, this lack of tutorial is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it makes the game a bit more challenging and it feels more rewarding when you figure something out and solve a puzzle. On the other hand, things like the fact that the glove is a vacuum don’t get explained and might turn some people off from this game… 

Something I can forgive is the fact that this game can be a bit repetitive. If you are interested in this game, I highly recommend that you play this game in short bursts since otherwise, this game might become quite boring. 

Something is wrong, I can feel it.

To be quite honest with you, I felt quite conflicted while writing this article. Since there is a lot that this game does right but the mistakes that this game makes are quite major. 

A great example of this is the visual presentation. Visually, this game looks amazing. The environments are detailed and feel life-like. For example, there is a volcano level in the elevator and you really feel that you are mining in an extremely hot place. In terms of animations, it’s good. Nothing too groundbreaking but good. 

Yet, there are several moments where I thought: “shouldn’t there be some visual to tell the player you are breaking this rock?” or “why does my drill always get so zoomed in when I walk very close to walls?”  or “why isn’t there a fuse animation on the dynamite?” … There are several more of these questions in the visual department, sadly enough. There isn’t enough feedback from the game to the player to communicate if they are hitting or missing a rock for example and this breaks the immersion fast. 

And it pains me to say that the smooth and stable visual presentation isn’t the only victim to this problem. The controls are as well. In most cases, the controls of this game work amazingly. I rarely felt like I was cheated out of something or that the game was unresponsive. Yet, I felt that the vacuum didn’t always work as I was expecting, and carrying around items to other places felt a bit … janky. Sometimes I dropped an item with me being unable to explain why my character dropped the item. 

But there also problems with the audiovisual presentation. The soundtrack of this game is just amazing. The variety of tracks in this game is just perfect. I really enjoy the fact there are different genres present in this game apart from all old-western-style music. The sound effects are pretty neat as well but don’t always play consistently. Sometimes they don’t play and sometimes they play for too long. Sounds that don’t always play are the drill when you are excavating relics and sounds that play too long are your gloves when you are using the super punch and cancel it. 

Not even the UI gets saved in build 2020-08-25. For some reason, there are still controller controls in the level bottom of the pause menu… while I don’t have a controller connected. On top of that, the counter for the number of unlocked endings is completely wrong. Just look at this screenshot to see both issues:

So yeah, it pains me to see this since you can clearly see that the rest of the UI is fine and works great. You can see your current main objective and your special mission to gain additional resources but mistakes like I mentioned above are just giving this game a sort of “beta” feel.

Now, most of the issues I mentioned so far I can personally overlook to a certain degree. Yes, they are annoying and they make the game less enjoyable but not unplayable for me. Yet, the thing that makes the game a bit unplayable in my opinion is the fact there is no real way to lose this game. There is no real danger in this game lurking. There is even no punishment for jumping in the ravine, you simply respawn next to your train.

So, is this game a bad or a good game? On one hand, this game is extremely relaxing and maybe it isn’t so bad that there isn’t a lot of danger lurking over your shoulder so you can enjoy the game at your own pace. Yet, on the other hand, I got a bit bored during parts of this game since I didn’t feel challenged at all.

I think the best conclusion is this. This game is perfectly balanced, as all things should be. While it has (huge) flaws that can turn people away, there are a lot of good things that can draw others in. I honestly think that with some more depth and polish, this game can become a real hit but in it’s current state, I think it will become a footnote in history.

Now, I think the big problem I have with this game is that I have played a game that did this concept a whole lot better in my opinion. I’m talking about SteamWorld Dig. Maybe I’m comparing this game and that game a bit too much in my mind diminishing my experience with this game. But, that makes this game: not a bad game. Since I enjoy trying to get the achievements in this game.

As I said earlier, I’m conflicted about this game. On one hand, I enjoy this game and I would recommend it to people who enjoy games like Minecraft or Steamworld Dig, but on the other hand, I don’t want to recommend this game since it needs a lot more work to be enjoyed by more than a niche audience. Also, I haven’t played the VR version of this game. Maybe that version is more polished.

Maybe when I finish all the endings, I might be able to form better opinions on this game. And who knows, maybe by then a few patches are released that improve the game and I might praise this game a lot more in my review. But for now, I think I’m going to wrap up this article. Thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

First Impression: Nightmare Reaper (PC – Steam) ~ Can You Sleep Through This?

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Steam store pageGOG page

I can’t tell you exactly why, but I’m a big fan of old school 3D shooters. Last year, I took a look at Ion Fury and Wrath. Honestly, I think that it’s because these games stuck the right balance between modern game design and old school gameplay. Now, one day I stumbled across this game. A game in Early Access that released last year to GOG and Steam. A game that presents itself as a game inspired by Blood, Doom, and Duke Nukem 3D. That’s quite interesting in my eyes. Currently, only the first episode has been released and episode two is coming in the near future. At the moment of writing, the developer said that they are aiming to release the second episode at the end of the summer. But, is this game worth your time and money? Let’s take a look at this game while I invite you to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

Can you sleep through this?

ss_b7e8b7e313a53c7bf3c33a58c248e23c44b7b9bd.1920x1080You play as an unnamed girl who is stuck in a psychotic ward. Her story is being told through small notes that you unlock after beating each level. In order for you to enjoy the game, you don’t need to pay any attention to the story, at all. But, I can tell you out of the experience that it enhances the game tenfold. My imagination and the spare bits of story that I got gave the world-building quite a lot of meaning. My imagination filled in some gaps that made the story quite interesting.

Now, I can understand that some people won’t enjoy a story that is this bland where it’s quite clear that you need to protect yourself on the character or fill in some of the gaps yourself. But, I didn’t find this a problem at all. Since this game focusses itself a lot more on the gameplay than on the story and in that case I don’t mind a “weaker” story.

I always find it quite difficult to review or criticize a story when I know that you don’t have every piece of the puzzle. A story can start off strong and end up quite weak. Currently, I’m quite interested to see where the story is going to go and if it wraps up with a nice conclusion or if it leaves it up to the player to figure out.

As I said before, the story is mostly told through small notes that you can read on your table after beating a level. You unlock one note for every level you beat. Each note builds on the previous note painting a more complete picture of the situation. There is no voice acting during these notes, but that doesn’t mean that there is no voice acting in the game.

The girl you play as is voiced by Marie-Claire Lavertu and I haven’t found anything about her. Now, this might raise some red flags but don’t you worry. The voice actor nails the voice acting of the main character flawlessly. The grunts, the smirks, the laughs… It’s all done pretty well. She did a pretty amazing job of bringing this troubled character to live without saying one line. I wonder if she also did the screams of the other patients you hear when you are in your room.

So, how do you play this game; since you start off in a hospital room? Well, as the name of the game suggests, you are going to reap some nightmares. So, it’s time to go to sleep and you get transported to a randomly generated level where your goal is to beat your enemies and reach the goal.

Retroception

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This game features randomly generated levels. Well, to a degree. The developer created a whole slew of rooms and the random level generator just fits them together in random order.

So that means, that you might find the same layout once or twice but in most cases, each level and each playthrough is quite different. But, this isn’t the only thing that stands out in this game.

The Steam Store page boasts that this game has over 32 weapons and is going to have 80+ weapons. Now, before you think that this is going to be an overload to manage them all… You don’t have to manage them all. That’s because you can only carry over one weapon from one level to the next. Yes, one weapon.

It gets even better, each weapon might have special abilities and has a certain level. So, you need to think and strategize about which weapon you want to keep and which weapon you want to sell for those precious coins.

These coins can drop from destroying the environment, defeating enemies, selling weapons at the end of a level, finding treasure, and playing the Gameboy Advance Skilltree minigame. Oh yes, the minigame. One doesn’t simply unlock new powerups in this game, you have to earn them by first having enough coins and then beat the mini-platform level. Only when beating a level, you lose your coins and earn your sweet powerup. Trust me, these power-ups are worth it! After defeating some levels, I felt more equipped and stronger to beat my enemies.

If I would take a look at all the enemies and weapons, I think I would be here all day. Let’s first talk about the weapons. You have swords, staffs, shotguns, rocket launchers, tomes, pistols, rifles… It’s a whole lot. Personally, I rarely used the bows since I found their fire rate a bit too slow since this game can get pretty hectic and intense with some enemies and a strong gun fits my playstyle more in these types of gameplay situations. And my preferred weapon was a double-barreled shotgun with the chance to shock my enemies I picked up in one of the earliest levels.

Obviously, I’m going to talk about the enemies right now. You have a whole range of enemies. From hit scanning enemies to enemies that take you with melee attacks. It’s essential for you to learn the patterns of each enemy so you can play accordingly for which enemy you should take out first.

There are some enemies I absolutely hated during my playthroughs. These Dragon Plants that not only spit acid but also spit little egg projectiles that hatch smaller dragons. These didn’t die fast enough for my liking. And then I’m skipping over the enemies who throw what I assume mutated blobs of themselves to you and these blobs track you and when they explode… You lose a LOT of your health. And these blobs are so freaking small and annoying to kill…

Now, would I remove these enemies? Absolutely not. They ramp up the difficulty of this game to a very rewarding level. For having so many different possibilities, I’m surprised how much work there has been put into the balancing of the game. New enemies are introduced one by one so you can get used to them, learn their patterns, and try to manage them in the chaos of a whole enemy filled room.

The “punishment” for death in this game isn’t that harsh. Thankfully, since you will die quite often since this game can be quite rough. But I mean that in a good way. The punishment is that you have to restart the level with the weapon you choose to keep from the previous level. But, you don’t lose your gold. So, if one level is a bit too tough, you can grind up your coins, beat a few skill tree mini-games and try again with some new powers.

During my playthrough, I regularly felt the urge to play just one more round, to try to beat that annoying level. I found that most of this game is quite fair and balanced apart from the fire boss. I’m sorry but I find that boss battle just too difficult. That boss hits a bit too hard. My biggest complaint is that this boss appears after quite a challenging level and then you have to try and beat quite a difficult fight. Thankfully, the developer said that he is going to take a look at how the fight can become a little bit easier. And also, he has given us some helpful advice to beat it. It’s the biggest frustration I have with this game since I have gotten so close several times… But one of these days, I’ll do it and defeat that – CENSORED –

So, would it surprise you if I said that I’m not even done talking about all the mechanics yet? Oh, I haven’t mentioned the power-ups, the random events, and the possible bonus gold you can earn by killing all the enemies, finding all the gold and secrets… Well, I’ll leave these interesting and fun game mechanics up to you to find out. There must still be something to discover when you play this game after reading this article, right?

Shoot everything

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You might have noticed by looking at the screenshots, that this game doesn’t have the most modern graphics. This game goes for a more retro aesthetic with some modern vibes. And the game succeeds in that quite well.

In the visual presentation, I find this game quite exceptional. I really like the visual presentation and animation of this game. From the enemy design to the animations on the weapons, I really think they are well done. Especially, when I saw some early footage of the game and compare it to what’s on offer now, it’s impressive how far this game has come. The only minor complaint I have in the visual department is a timer. Yes, a timer of how long your power-up is lasting. Since there is no inventory in this game for power-ups and health pickups, so it would have been nice to see how much a powerup is going to last when you want to use it to rush a boss or a difficult room.

To finish up my thoughts on the visual presentation, let’s talk about the UI. Overall, it’s quite well done but there are a few minor things that I would change. First of all, the “Reset Default Settings” is a great future but I would rather have that feature reset for example only the game features instead of resetting everything. Another minor complaint I have about the UI is there are no page numbers on the achievement page.

Speaking about achievements, it’s lovely that these give you coins in-game but I find them to also have them as Steam achievements. I mean, there are over 80 already. Maybe this is just me, but I almost got an achievement in every round, if not two or three. Maybe I look at achievements in a totally different light but I found them not rewarding to earn at all.

There is one thing that I haven’t talked about yet and I usually talk about quite early in my articles and that’s the audio of this game. First of all, let’s talk about the sound effects. The sound design of this game is close to perfect. On quite rare occasions, I didn’t hear some trap or pickup sound effects playing, especially during fights but that isn’t such a big deal. These fights are hectic enough when you try to manage large groups of enemies, the sparse health pickups, and the great sound effects of the enemies and weapons.

But I want to talk about the amazing soundtrack by Andrew Hulshult. Now, if this name doesn’t ring a bell. Well, let me just say he created the soundtrack of a little game called Dusk and Wrath: Aeon Of Ruin. Let me just say, if you enjoy the DooM 2016 soundtrack, oh man you are going to enjoy this quite a lot.

Overall, I would recommend this game to people who enjoy retro games and shooters. At its current state, I found this game quite addictive and I had a hard time putting this game down during my summer holidays. Before I knew it, I had put in 11 hours in this game and I’m not bored with it yet. I can’t wait to see what the second episode will bring to the table.

To be honest, I had a really hard time finding negatives to say about this game apart from the fire boss being too tricky for my liking. All the other things are things that are either quite minor or can change because this game is still in active development. I’m going to keep an eye out on this game and maybe you too.

And with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in a future one but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

First Impression: The Great Perhaps (Switch) ~ I Dunno, Time Travel Perhaps?

H2x1_NSwitchDS_TheGreatPerhaps_image1600wDrageus pageSteam pageDevelopers websiteNintendo microsite

Today I want to talk about a game that asks a question. The question of how the world would look like after a big disaster occurred. But, more on the story later in the article. To give full disclosure, I got a review code for this game from the developers of the Switch port Drageus Games for this review. As usual, Drageus Games asked that I gave my 100% true honest opinion. So, that’s what you are going to read in this article. Now, Drageus Games didn’t publish the PC-version. That’s been handled by Daedalic Entertainment of Deponia fame. Anyways, let’s dive right into this adventure game and look at what it has to offer. Should you play or skip this game? Let’s find out. One thing before I continue, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

I dunno, time travel perhaps?

ss_80c8f6807052540764e0c21b6a70cd8f9f84b89b.1920x1080I already started to explain the story in the introduction paragraph of this article. In this game, Earth is destroyed by natural disasters. You play an astronaut that was in his spaceship during the disasters. Now, when you descent back to Earth, you find a lamp that aids you to see the past and interact with it. Together with this lamp, you set out on a journey to find your family and explore what’s left of the Earth.

While the setup of the story is completely different, the story reminded me of another game a bit. In Time Hollow, you also have an object that allows you to interact with the past and you go through a very emotional adventure. But, that’s beside the point, I just wanted to mention that game if the premise of this game interests you, there are also other games with that sort of story nature.

The writing in this game is decent. From what I have seen so far, there was nothing that stuck out as really good or really bad to me. The only thing that stuck a bit out with the mediocre voice acting. I really can’t put my finger onto why but I felt that some lines were either a bit forced or strangely delivered. Maybe it’s the writing itself or the pacing, I can’t tell why exactly but the voice acting isn’t the strongest point in this game.

All in all, this game isn’t that long. This game can take you 2-4 hours of playtime. Currently, I’m in the middle of the game. You do explore various locations from a metro station to a zoo. The thing is, this game isn’t 3D, so it’s quite linear. But, I’ll go more in-depth on this when I’m going to talk about the gameplay.

Trial and error

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This game uses an auto-save system. I’m so glad that it does since this game can be quite tricky at the beginning. One of the first areas you visit is a metro station and I have to say that it wasn’t the most enjoyable experience I had.

I think that two things made my experience frustrating that can be fixed or addressed in an update. The first thing is that the icons for interaction or way too small. The size is bordering on too small when you play the game in handheld mode but when I was playing in the dock, I had to sit a bit too close to my TV for comfort to see the interaction icons.

The 2nd issue was the biggest cause of my frustration. I wasn’t able to get used to the delay of the time traveling. If you travel to the past in the metro station, you have to look out for a train. Your AI-companion does warn you when the train is approaching, but you do still have some time to switch back to the present. I always started to switch back when I visually saw the train approaching. To save yourself some frustration, don’t do that. The delay is long enough so that the train will always hit you and kill you. Keep that delay in mind.

Speaking about that delay, there is a mechanic that I would have implemented quite differently. That is the time you can stay in the past. After a while, a sound effect starts playing to let you know that your time is almost up and that you are going to switch back to the present. The issue I have with this is that the only sign you get is done with audio. Not everybody can hear the audio or is focused on audio-cues. I think it would have been greater if some sort of animation or effect started displaying when the audio starts. You could argue that the flashing of the lamp is a visual clue, I give you that. But, you do have, give or take, a second before it switches back when the final flash happened.

Now, how does this game play? It’s almost like a puzzle-platformer without the platforming. By using your lamp, you have to solve puzzles to go back to the past and the present. Compare the idea a bit with the Harp of Ages from The Legend of Zelda – Oracle of Ages.

There is some trial and error involved in this game. Because there is no real hint system in this game, you do have to try everything you can think of. Unlike the Steam version that has achievements that can help you a bit to steer you in the right direction, you are on your own in this game. You don’t even have some sort of map system or “to do” list that can help you remember what your next objective is. So, this game is a bit old school in that regard. Now, there are achievements in this game but they are less present than in the Steam version.

While it’s easy to die in the present, the respawn time is rather quick. So, if you failed to solve a puzzle, don’t worry, it doesn’t take long in order for you to give it another go. And because the game autosaves frequently, you don’t have to worry about losing too much progress.

Comic book?

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Visually, this game is pretty amazing. Everything has this hand-drawn look to it and is amazingly detailed. Sadly, there were a few moments where I felt that some details were either missed or not clear enough. For example, in the metro station, you can’t pass through a door because it’s damaged. But, the visual damage on the door is only a few scratches on the door itself. That’s like saying that a bush blocks your way and you are unable to walk around it… Isn’t that right Pokémon?

The visual presentation is like you are playing through a comic book. It’s quite clear that a lot of work and thought has been put into the visuals and the backgrounds of this game. I have to compliment the artists on their work since they did an amazing job.

The animations on the other hand aren’t bad but aren’t good either. The jump animation could have been better for example. The character is a bit too static but strangely, a part of the suit does move.

The audiovisual presentation of this game is decent. The music fits the theming and atmosphere of the game like a glove. Now, there isn’t an option to adjust the volume of the music and/or sound effects in the menu. You can only change the master volume in the options.

When digging around in the options menu, I found out that the voice acting can also be in Russian. Apart from that, you can also choose to change the language of the subtitles and the menu system. I find it very strange that you can also change the language of only the menu system honestly. I think that it would have made more sense to merge the subtitle and the menu language option.

So, the UI of this game. Earlier I talked about the too-small interaction icons. The rest of the UI is good apart from some minor things I would have changed. One thing is that I think that the word “Areas” or “Sections” would have fitted better in the main menu instead of “Levels”.

And the second thing I would have changed is that I think that it would have been great that next to “Continue” the name of the area you were in appeared. But this brings me to another point. Why does this game have only one save slot? I mean, this genre screams to have multiple save slots. Especially when you share your Switch! Image that your sibling finished the game and you had to find the point where you were at.

Something that I personally find a huge negative in this game is the lack of an help section. Just image that you take a break from playing this game and you want to pick it back up. That means that you have to relearn all the different mechanics and controls of this game from scrath. That’s a pain in my opinion. It’s just a small feature that can save a lot of people headaches.

Now, I haven’t spoken about the controls. They are quite resposive and I didn’t had a lot of problems with them. Apart from the delay of switching back and forth between the past and the present. But, is this a problem with the controls or the gameplay? You can give arguments for both options.

When I’m reading back this article, you might think that this game isn’t the best or is mediocre. Well, that isn’t 100% true. This game is quite charming and you feel that a lot of care has been put into this game. But, it’s quite rough around the edges. If you are looking for a really polished game, I have to say that you should look elsewhere. If you don’t mind a game that’s a bit rough around the edges, I think this game can be for you.

If you enjoy adventure, point-and-click and/or puzzle games, this game might be an enjoyable time waster. With some additional polish, this game can get even better and then I wouldn’t say that it’s rough around the edges anymore.

And with that, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Game Quicky: Bridge Strike (Switch) ~ Shall We Strike?

H2x1_NSwitchDS_BridgeStrike_image1600wNintendo.com micrositeDrageus Games portfolioOfficial website

A few weeks ago, my developer friends Drageus Games sent me a press kit about Bridge Strike. As usual, they provided a press code to me so I can review this game in my usual 100% honest opinion. Now, Drageus Games didn’t develop this game but a small team called Project R3D from Poland. Now, retro gamers who enjoy playing games on the Commodore Amiga might know this title. Yes, it’s from the same developers. Now, in this article I’m going to take a look at the Switch version. I just want to also say that this game is also released on mobile platforms. With all that said, I think it’s high time to take a look at this game in my usual game quicky format. Did this indie studio create an hidden gem or a game best skipped? Let’s find out while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

We can strike!

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In this game you play as an unnamed soldier who is piloting “The Eagle”. But more about the story in a later section of this article.

Since the game is also a mobile game, the gameplay is quite simple. With the right joystick, you move your aircraft around and you shoot with the A button. Simple controls and easy to understand. They are also extremely responsive. Most of this game was played with my Switch Pro Controller and it felt quite good to control.

If you just look at the screenshots of this game, it does look amazing. The visual presentation is something that I have to admire. It’s extremely well done and I dare even say that it’s quite impressive for being an indie game. Including the audio design, the sound effects have impact and the music is quite enjoyable to listen to as well.

Something I want to mention for sure that they I really liked the dynamic weather system. It was a nice surprise to see this amount of effort to the visuals.

We are out of ammo!

Now, I do want to mention something about the story. I can understand that this story for a game like this doesn’t need to be very involved or have very deep lore. For a simple top down indie shooter game, a generic plot can work. But, I do have some problems with the story this time around.

It’s a bit too generic. There is barely any to no world building in the story. Also, there is no explanation to why you should shoot down the bridges. Do you need to cut off your country’s supply lines?

But, you want to know something funny? The story does get explained and it gets more lore and world building. Believe it or not, it’s in the help section. Yes, the help section. Where you expect something like a tutorial or the button lay-out. Maybe this is a strange translation decision but it battles me.

In addition to that, when you read the story in the help section you get the impression that there is much more to the game then there actually is. That you have to fight a lot of enemies or stay hidden. Now, if the simple tutorial is anything to go by, I’m afraid that’s just nothing more than a bit of text. Besides moving your ships and shooting, there is nothing else in terms of mechanics.

And guess what, this means that the game falls into a pitfall of being repetitive quite easily. There are only three things you have to do in this game. One is shoot bridges, two is to slow down at fuel stations and three is dodge or shoot obstacles. That’s it. If you are interested in this game, I do advise you to play this game is short bursts, since this game can get a bit boring after a few levels.

Something that would have helped is that there was a bit more for the player to avoid or play around with. For example, that there were power-ups or enemies that shot back. But after playing the raid mode and some of the campaign levels, I haven’t seen anything like that. And if only there was an autofire, that would be amazing sometimes.

EcLkwT-UMAAIy7mThe game does have a polished feel, but I think that QA looked over somethings. I mean, just look at this screenshot. According to the stats, I fired 13 shots and I got 14 hits. How does that even work when your shot doesn’t go through enemies? Also, 107% accuracy and only 2 out of three stars? Excuse me? Why didn’t I get the full three stars? Especially since the next level, I fired 36 shots, I got 35 hits and I got three starts with an accuracy of 97%.

That level was finally something else than shooting bridges, but it was destroy ships in the water. At first, I thought that they were there for decoration, world building. But these ships that posed no threat were enemies. Look, you do need to give the player a reason to destroy these ships besides giving them one coin as a reward. Since players get way more coins for destroying bridges, which is the name sake of the game.

Something I’m quite strict on is the UI design. It lacks some quality of life improvements. Things like, not going to the main menu when you exit a level but to the level select. Or, the tutorial being one of the first options when you pick “play the game”. Or having some sort of buzz sound when you can’t buy a new plane in the hanger.

If you are still interested in this game, I do not bother with the raid mode. I’m sorry but I got bored after a few minutes of playing this mode. It’s just an endless mission where you have to destroy bridges and the only thing that can kill you is either forgetting to fuel to flying into a wall or an obstacle.

And that brings me to the difficulty. This game is extremely easy and that’s the biggest flaw of this game. There is barely any challenge in this game. Especially since there is barely anything that can kill the player. You do only get three lives in the raid mode, but that’s it. If you make three mistakes, you can just restart. Actually, raid mode is an easy way to farm coins. But, that’s besides the point.

Also, why is there no way to either reset the statistics menu or separate that between stats from the mission mode and the raid mode?

Now, I can keep talking and talking but I think I can put my final thoughts in a nice conclusion, so I think it’s high time for that.

So, shall we strike?

I don’t like giving games a bad or luke warm review. I always try to find something unique and enjoyable in all the games I play. While this game has a lot going for it in terms of stunning visuals, great audio design and an interesting basic gameplay loop… It lacks depth and a lot of it.

Usually, I play a game for at least three to four hours before I even consider writing a first impression or game quicky about it. But, after an half hour to an hour of playing this game, I felt that I had seen everything that this game has to offer. Which is a shame, since looking at the mission screen, it looks like there are a lot of missions and a lot of effort and love that went into this game.

But, it all goes to waste because the basic gameplay loop isn’t engaging enough to keep people’s attention for too long. It can be enjoyable for a short bust or when you need to play a game that’s more laid back but I’m sorry, I have a hard time to recommend this game in it’s current state.

I know how hard and difficult developing a game is. I’m developing software to ease up the workload of the admin office in my school and that eats up a ton of my time. But, I rather keep developing my software until it works and covers everything. To be honest, I felt that I was playing a prototype or a vertical slice of the final product. (This is a game development term which means that you have something playable to give a publisher an idea to where you want to take the game.)

When I look around to what other bloggers are saying, I see that this game is getting a 6 or 7/10. And I’m sorry but I have to respectfully disagree with these scores. Now, if I have to give a score on anything but the gameplay, yes, this game would get a 7/10 or even higher from me. But, the unused potential of gameplay and the focus on retro gaming… I’m sorry but I can’t give a such a high score to that.

Now, if the developers are still working on this game and maybe there is more variety and more challenge in the game, I think that this game might become a lot better. But for now, it’s a game that falls flat on it’s face for me. If I’m overlooking something, feel free to let me know in the comments. But for now, I think that the current version I have played is getting nothing more than a 50/100 from me. But, do know that this low score is because the serious lack of difficulty and variety in this game. Everything else is quite well done.

With that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I want to thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

First Impression: Silicon Dreams (PC – Itch.io) ~ Humans, how do they work?

headerI promised that this article was coming. Back when I published the press kit of this game, I said that I was going to write an article talking about my opinion on the game. This game is being developed by two people who created a very interesting game already in the past called Spinnortality. Now, what is this game about? If robots sleep, do they dream of electric sheep. … I’m sorry, I just wanted to use that phrase at least once in my article about robots and AI. In a way, you are the AI of a robot that is interviewing humans. But, is it any good? Well, let’s find out by taking a look at the pre-release demo that you can find on Itch.io. As usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game.

Humans, how do they work?

zPkd5MWhen you start up this game, you get greeted with an invitation to subscribe to the newsletter of Clockwork Bird, the developers of this game. Honestly, I think it’s worth it since their game concepts are quite interesting. Spinnortality was a game about building a company that could conquer the world while trying to get yourself immortal. And with this second game, I feel that there is a lot of depth to the game.

In addition to that, I like the attention to detail that this prototype demo has. I mean, it has a nice menu screen and it even has an icon instead of the default icon that some prototype games have that are made in Unity or Unreal Engine.

The menu screen is very interesting, instead of your typical list of options you get in almost every game, you get a radar type of deal where you can click on the menu options to get started. The only nitpick I have is that in this prototype, the animation of selecting a menu item plays after you selected it. So, the animation can point to an empty thing in the next menu. I think it would have been cooler if the animation played while selecting an item in the menu.

After you picked the robot you wanted to start with, you get the basic premise of this game. You are D-0527, and your goal is to try and find out what’s wrong with other Androids that are created by Kronos Robotics.

In order for you to play this game, you only need your mouse. You can interact with three things in this demo. That is, the tablet, the TV screen and the printer. The TV screen starts the actual interrogation of the broken Android. The printer is a log of the things that were already being said and the tablet is the way you select and ask your questions. The yellow text is clickable and brings you to the questions.

Now, how does one find the errors and glitches in the Androids? Well, during the interrogation, you notice that in the middle of the screen, you have a whole range of emotions. Some questions can provoke the Android and have a certain emotional response. It’s up to you to find and ask the right questions to get to the right conclusion. So, you would make a mistake if you clicked through everything since you will have to answer certain questions correctly or you might not be allowed to continue further.

This game gets even more tricky. You can’t see the log of the interrogation during a dialogue. So, yes. For this game, I even got out a pen and paper to take some minor notes. While the log is useful, it becomes one wall of text rather quickly and without a search feature, this can get quite tricky to keep track of all the information. And I’m glad that there isn’t a search feature, since this makes the game that more challenging and rewarding for when you pay attention.

The end goal of each interrogation is to fill in a report. The report asks some questions that Kronos Robotics has about the Android. Now, it’s your job to ask the right personal and general questions to get the information you need. But do keep in mind that you only ask each question once apart from some exceptions. So, be very careful on the questions you ask.

So, that’s the gameplay in this game. And I have to admit, that I have fallen in love with this game. Frequent readers of my blog know that I enjoy games like Ace Attorney and Zero Escape. Two game franchises that just play with your expectations and emotions. And this game has the potential to do the exact same thing, and I simply can’t wait to sink my teeth into the full version.

Let’s give some feedback

LrAvIqWhile I know that this game is still under development and that I most likely played a very early version of the game, I do have some things I would advise to the developers for the full version of the game. Do keep in mind that if you are reading this article in the future when a newer version or even the full version has been released, that some or all of these things might be invalid points of feedback.

First of all, I wouldn’t change anything about the audiovisual design. The atmosphere of the interrogation room is excellent and the animations that are in the game like raising the tablet and report are great.

The music is tense and reminds me a lot of games like Ace Attorney, Zero Escape and Corpse Party. It made me feel tense and I liked it. Since it added a ton to the atmosphere. Now, I do think that this game lacks some sound effects. I think that the game would come a bit more alive when with certain emotional reactions, some sound effect would play. For example, an angry response can have a growl or because they are Androids, a chainsaw starting up. Doesn’t that sound like an angry Android?

But, when I can nitpick about things, I have a few recommendations.

First of all, I find it quite strange that the text on the tablet is being typed out and the words of the Android are all right there in one fell swoop. I think it would have been better if the message of the Android is typed out as well.

Secondly, I think it would be great if in the dialogue box, there is some sort of icon that shows you that the message is done and there is a follow up message after it. Of course, that icon would be different if you reached the last part of that dialogue.

And finally, I would like to mention that the flashing when you hover over the yellow text is a bit too fast to my liking. But, know that I only noticed it when I rest my mouse over it for a longer period of time.

Of course this will be added in the full version of the game, but I just want to warn players who are planning to play the prototype demo that there is no way to save and load the game. Thankfully, the prototype demo is rather short and can be finished in give or take an hour or two.

And honestly, that’s all the major feedback I can give about the game so far. Now, if this game sound interesting to you, I think it would be a great idea to go over to the Itch.io page and try out the free prototype demo that’s available right on there.

With that, I have said everything about this game I wanted to say for now. Of course, when the full version gets released, I’ll write a follow-up review, but until then, I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Game Quicky: Archaica- The Path Of Light (Switch) ~ Pointing Lazers

Archaica

Steam store pageNintendo.com pageOfficial websiteDrageus Games page

It’s no big secret that I love to play various types of games. From shooters to more relaxing games like Forager. Now, I enjoy playing casual games like the ones on Bigfishgames.com. So, when Drageus Games sent me a press release about Archaica and I saw it was based on one of the classic light and mirror puzzles you have to do in those games, it grabbed my attention right away. So, I took the press code I got and I started working on this first impression/review article of the game that will have 100% my own opinion. So, without further ado, let’s see how well Two Mammoths game got ported to the Nintendo Switch. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article. 

The good

Archiaca

The story in this game is pretty relaxed. The story is about you discovering the acient secrets of an old and long forgotten civilization. Yet, since this is a puzzle game and in most of the puzzle games the story can be a bit… mediocre, the developers focused more on the atmosphere and tying the puzzles into the lore.

This is something they did quite well. The story is being told through various hidden collectables and it’s a joy to play through a puzzle game that way. The only “ehrm” thing about it, is that it’s a bit ruined by the fact that there is no real “log” of the things you discover. So, if you want to read previous entries, you are out of luck.

Now, the gameplay is quite easy to understand. You have to place mirrors on the right location on the grid and get them in the right oriantion for them to bounce the light right into the crystals. The really responsive controls make this game easy to pick up and play.

While this game can be fun in short and longer play sessions, the thing that kept me going was the atmosphere. The lore building storytelling combined with the amazing visual presenation and animation, it’s really good for a first indie game project. Together with the mysterious Aztec-themed music, the sound design is pretty well done as well.

The difficulty of the game can be a bit frustrating, since it’s the answer is always a bit tricky, but the satisfaction of finally figuring out that level you were stuck on is such a great feeling.

The game autosaves your progress. It’s a joy, since it also saves the collectables you have found in uncompleted levels.

The bad

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So, I don’t know who is to blame here but on the official Drageus website, they claim that this game has an unique hint system and that it has dynamic boards.

I’m sorry but this is a bit of false advertising. Let me begin first about the “dynamic boards”. Since it’s a term that I didn’t find anywhere else, it’s a bit up for whatever we make of it. And that can cause some expectations that aren’t realistic like randomly generated puzzles.

But the publishers aren’t navite English speakers so I can forgive that to an extend. Something I can’t forgive and found quite dissapointing is the actual lack of a hint system. I’m sorry, but I was unable to find this “unique hint system”. Now, if they meant with “unique hint system” the fact that you get more explanation about a certain type of mirror when you find the three glowing pedestals hidden in the level, then I don’t call that a hint system but a tutorial.

Sadly enough, there are some other things I can’t let off the hook either. The menu UI, especially the method to return to a previous menu is a bit cluncky. You have to hold B to go to a previous menu. But, the annoying thing is that there is no indication of the game registering your input.

Also, the options menu is a bit unpolished. You don’t go to the top option when you scrolled down to the bottom, and the game doesn’t tell you that the options autosave when you exit. So imagne my surprise when my game was suddenly in a different language because I was looking at the different options for this review.

The option to replay the intro is just filler. I’m sorry but the intro is just a few seconds long and has just one textbox with a bit of the story.

So yeah, with that said, I think I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. Apart from my conclusion here. What is my actual conclusion? Let’s find out.

The conclusion

This game is a strange beast. While the game is really enjoyable to play and I had a lot of fun with it… There are some things that just ruin the experience to a degree. From the lack of a promised hint system to unpolished UI.

I’m under the impression that this game tried to be something it isn’t. It could have been so much more when the story was more fleshed out and you had some sort of log you could read previous entries. Or when you had a hint system and a reason to actually collect those shine glowing orbs.

I really wanted to like this game since the audiovisual design and the gameplay are excellent. Especially the audiovisual design is exceptionally well done for an indie title. But alas, it isn’t meant to be.

I can recommend this game to casual and hardcore fans of the puzzle genre. If the premise of lazor and mirror puzzles interests you, I think that this game might be worth your time but don’t expect the next Talos Principle from this game.

I might sound a bit harsh in my conclusion and I do have a reason for that. I find it such a shame that such a beautiful game is pulled down by such simple mistakes. This is something the developers can fix through patches and content updates. So, please. Just polish up the game a bit more and it can be a real gem. But for now, I think I’ll just enjoy my unpolished rough diamond.

Thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope I’ll be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 60/100

First Impressions: The Hive (Steam) ~ War With And Of Bugs

thehiveSteam Store page

One of my favorite game genres is RTS games. The satisfaction that you get from building up your empire, setting up an economy, and preparing yourself to defeat the enemy. It can be such a rewarding feeling. Games like Age of Empires II, Rise of Nations, or Rise & Fall – Civilizations At War are just three of the amazing games I have played to death when I was a kid. Now, when I got a mail from the fine folks over at Skydome Entertainment with a press code for The Hive and full freedom with my article, I was extremely excited. This game has been under development for several years now. The first development blog posts on the Steam Store page date all the way back to December 2014 and the latest patch has been released on March 9th, 2020, which is version 1.203. This is the version I’ll talk about in this article, so if this game got an update, it’s possible that some things in this article or no longer relevant. So, without further ado, I think it’s high time that we take a look at this game and it’s worth your time or if you should skip this game. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article down below.

War With Bugs

TheHive2Something happened to the world. The story of this game starts off in 2175, where our planet Earth got attacked and destroyed. Humanity was able to build a ship and leave Earth before it was completely destroyed and went off a journey to look for a new planet to life. After a human lifetime of searching, a new planet in a new solar system was found. The humans were taken out of their cryogenic sleep to start-up life anew in the harsh climate. But, something is alive underneath the crust of that planet. Something awakens in the City Of Ancients that might prove a big issue for the humans and the catch is, it’s you that takes control of the new species and try and help to find it’s old glory.

You play as The Hive and you are the leader of bugs living in The City Of Ancients. The story gets more interesting in the further chapters but I’m not going to spoil it. To be honest, I got some Overlord vibes from the story. Maybe because both games are about minions you control and have their own unique abilities. The atmosphere is similar to a certain degree. The plot of this game is quite enjoyable and it didn’t disappoint at all.

One thing I should mention is that this game has no skirmish mode as far as I know. So, that means if you finish the 12-ish hour-long campaign, you basically have beaten the game. You could try to beat it on a higher difficulty to challenge yourself but outside that, the game has no real replay value after defeating the campaign.

Now, this game also has voice acting. The voice acting in this game is quite impressive. The production value is impressive for being an indie title. It feels that the voice actors put their heart and soul into the characters and gave them a nice personality. I especially liked the effects they put on the voice for the Insect Advisor.

While this game takes place in a magical universe, there isn’t a lot of technobabble. For those who don’t know that term, it means that everything has its own name and there are a million exposition dumps. If you have played an RTS game in the past, you will know right what to do and the war of the bugs can begin.

War of Bugs

TheHive1So, the gameplay loop in this game is that you have to explore the caves underneath the planet to find a way up. You learn a lot about the War and the fight against the other species that took place. While most levels use the usual RTS gameplay loop of build city, build the economy, build an army, find enemy, attack the enemy army, destroy enemy base; a few puzzles and unique twists are thrown into the mix.

In terms of gameplay and mechanics, I have a mixed feeling. There are things that I enjoyed quite a lot and there are things that baffled me. Let’s do a round of good thing – bad thing to sum a few things up.

So, while building your empire, you can not only rotate around the camera but the buildings as well. Man, I love features like these. It makes it less awkward when I placed a barracks in a corner and my units spawn out of a wall from the building. Alas, the building of buildings has one thing that I found frustrating. I have gotten so used to the fact that you can cue up buildings to build, but that doesn’t work in this game.

The gathering of resources works in a unique way. Food doesn’t rot away and workers don’t have to walk back and forth to the hive. A special cart rides out from the nearest gathering point to collect the resources. So, your workers put all the gather resources on a pile and these carts come and pick it up. The resources don’t even rot away and you don’t have to do anything for it to collect it. The only “downside” is that you can only use one worker per resource gathering point. Now, what’s the bad thing here?

Well, there is a soft-lock potential. The resources aren’t infinite. Now, imagine this scenario in the Age of Empires II. There is no more wood on the map but you need wood for your archers. What can you do? Well, you can build up a ton of farms and trade that food over for gold to buy wood at the market. This avoids the issue that if everything of one resource is gathered, it’s impossible to get. Now, in The Hive, there is no such thing as a market or a farm. Meaning that every decision counts. Thankfully, you really have to make bad decision after bad decision in order for you to soft-lock yourself but the fact that the potential is there always worried me.

The UI of this game is pretty impressive. The options menu is something that I can only praise. An explanation of what key does what? It’s a feature I’ll miss in other games. If only, a similar explanation appeared for the graphic options, but hey, that would clutter the UI of the graphics options a bit too much. Yet, I have two things that I disliked about the UI. First of all, if I may nitpick, I found the text on the buttons on the pause menu a bit hard to read since the text color and the color of the buttons are somewhat close to each other. And second, the visual design of the menu’s that you open using the pause menu are so different in design… I mean, the pause menu has a sort of cave theming like the UI in-game, and suddenly, a more space / modern UI appears for the options menu.

The fact that your vision cone appears on the mini-map is a great feature and it even rotates with you when you rotate the camera. Yet, I do have a complaint. It doesn’t change size when you zoom and/or out and especially, it always appears a bit underneath the place where you click on the mini-map. I can understand why this happens since the location of the camera isn’t where you click but a bit underneath that spot. But, it gave me a feeling I wasn’t able to click where I wanted on the mini-map.

It’s great that you can skip cutscenes and even have subtitles. But why aren’t both possible in the opening cutscene? A minor nitpick is that there are some minor grammar errors in the game (“Click of the paintings” instead “Click on the paintings” in the second level)

There is this unique mechanic where you can find treasures to upgrade your units to dissolve them for DNA points to unlock special upgrades for your units. It’s a perfect balancing act since you need to decide if you are going to dissolve the treasures and get an upgrade or use them to improve your unit(s). If only that would be explained in some sort of tutorial, which the game somewhat lacks.

Just a bit more

giphyIf you read the previous section, it might look that I’m ripping this game a new one. That there are so many things missing or wrong with this game, that it’s not a great game to play. Well, then I think you got the wrong idea. I loved my time with the game and I found it a bit disappointing that some features I expect weren’t there.

Also, the price for this game is only 15€. So, it would be wrong of me to compare this game to big titles with way bigger budgets behind it. The thing is that I enjoy this game so much, that it frustrated me that the potential that this game has is unused.

Take for example the visual presentation. The artwork, unit design, level design… they all look amazing. You really feel like being in an abandoned cave where an old civilization used to live. The animations really make the world come alive. It’s so adorable that your workers dig into the ground to create a building and that it rises up like a sort of mole hole.

The audiovisual design is outstanding as well. This game has an orchestral soundtrack that reminds me of the reboot Tomb Raider games, Rise & Fall – Civilizations At War, and other similar games. It sounds familiar on one hand but new and fresh on the other hand. It’s a blast to listen too. The sound effects only add to the great atmosphere. The audiovisual design is so well done that I can excuse that some things don’t have sound effects or voice lines like when you click on an option where you don’t have enough DNA points for or certain interactions in your inventory are silent.

This game is a blast to play but you have to take into account that there are some things that don’t really work or work in the way you expect them to work. I have given several examples in the previous section, but here is another one. Why does your cursor not change when you hover over a resource or why don’t your worker acknowledge that interaction is going to happen?

This is why I said earlier in the article that I feel quite mixed about the gameplay. I enjoy playing this game but the final touches are just not there in certain cases. Now, I’m not saying that this game is unpolished or anything since there is a lot of attention to detail in most mechanics but not in all of them.

I think that this game could use another major content update or update that just focusses on making the game a bit more accessible. I think if a tutorial is added, something to avoid the soft lock potential and the functions that miss sound effects or voice lines are added; that this game gets even better.

So, I can’t wait to finish the final 5 levels I still have left to play. Since I really enjoyed my time with the game. I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoys sci-fi games, RTS games, and even to people who enjoy adventure games. This game is quite enjoyable to play and experience. It’s an enjoyable RTS experience that I won’t soon forget. Congrats to the small Finnish team of 6 people who put their heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears into this game since I have to say, the end result is something to be proud of and it shows a ton of potential for future games and/or more adventures in the world of The Hive.

And with that, I conclude my first impression. I want to thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Preview: The Uncharted Roads of Marco Polo (PC) ~ The Road To Development

4 (1)[15753]Today I have something quick unique to present to you. Not too long ago, I met somebody on a Facebook group about point-and-click adventure games who was developing a new title. The game is called ”The Uncharted Roads of Marco Polo” and it looks extremely interesting to me. I suggested creating an article for the developers and they agreed. So, here we are. I’m writing a preview article for a game that only released some screenshots and a small trailer video. But there is more! I had the chance to talk to one of the developers of this game called Josip Makjanic and we are going to talk about the uncharted road that took him to this development. So, with that said, it’s time to dive into this article and invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

 The pitch

So, what is this game about? The developer provided me with a bit more information about the game. Basically, the game is a point-and-click adventure game like Broken Sword and Monkey Island. You can also compare it to Captain Disaster, Another Code R, Time Hollow, Ace Attorney, Professor Layton or the CSI games.

The game takes the player all over various landmarks in Croatia to solve puzzles and have a grand adventure. The story will be based on historic locations and figures. At this moment, the game is in its pre-alpha stage and has over 60 locations planned together with various characters to populate them. The puzzles will be in the style you would find in the Broken Sword or the Monkey Island series.

Pre-Alpha means that the game is in a sort “draft” phase. It means that everything is being prepared to go into the production of the game. Compare it to baking a cake, the moment you plan to bake a cake and make a list of which ingredients you will need and for whom you are making the cake… Those are things you would do in the pre-alpha stage of development. You can read more information about the development cycle on this Wikipedia article.

Personally, I love games that take place in unusual locations around the world. So, this game takes place in Croatia and is being developed by Svarog Interactive. This 4-man team is also based in Croatia. Now, the guys from there also send us a little teaser video that you can find right here:

I have to say, this teaser is extremely impressive. Right away, I noticed that the art style resembled the art style in the first Broken Sword games. Like the Broken Sword games, the locations are extremely detailed and colorful. Unlike the Broken Sword games, the animation like the leaves and the flies on screen… Well, the location feels more alive than ever. I find it rather enjoyable that everything looks quite realistic and those flies, man, they look so goofy I love it.

If you compare the Pre-Alpha video to the screenshots I shared on top of this article, you notice some big differences right away. First of all, the dialogue system looks a lot cleaner. You get dialogue boxes with character portraits on top. Also, you notice that on the bottom right corner, you have a bag. Most likely, this is where your items are going to be stored. So, you won’t have to go to the top of your screen for that. In addition to that, in the right upper corner, you notice that there is a gear icon. This will most likely be a way to go to the pause menu.

Early EnvironmentsSadly enough, since this game is still in extremely early development, there is nothing more I can show you or talk about. I can’t wait to see more and I’m going to follow the development of this game quite closely.

Yet, if you want more and you speak Croatian, you can read this article with one of the developers by 24Sata. Now, there is also this YouTube video where the developer talks about his road towards development. While the video is in Croatian, there are English subtitles provided. Sadly, the subtitles just stop around the 5:11 mark, so there are 2 minutes without subtitles ☹.

Now, before we continue with the interview with Josip Makjanic, one of the co-founders of Svarog Interactive, I want to share some links where you can follow the project as well. They have a Facebook page and Twitter page.

Oliver, Alice & Evil Seagul

Let’s talk

Jonez: Welcome Josip Makjanic, co-founder of Svarog Interactive. Can you give us a small introduction about yourself?

Josip: Hello Jonez. My name is Josip Makjanic, a co-founder and Game Designer in Svarog Interactive.

Jonez: In our conversation over mail you told me that this isn’t your first game. You worked on impressive games like Serious Sam 4 and Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope. Serious Sam is an amazing series from Croatia, your home country. Was it always your dream to develop games?

Josip: Yes. I was always fascinated by it. I started making video games not so long ago, but I sort of designed games in general since I was a kid, by designing them on paper, writing stories and creating concepts. When I lived in a high school dorm I used to make versions of Warcraft, Diablo and even Counter Strike on paper that we played with dice, and people from the dorm would come and play in our room.

I was always fascinated by it and loved creating, so today, with some experience behind and with some good friends by my side, I thought it’s time to start working on our own video games.

Jonez: On the road to the developping of “The Uncharted Road of Marco Polo”, you created two other games called “Day in Dementia” and “In Memory”. Both games have a similar concept and art style. As a side note, I have to say that I’m touched by “In Memory”. The story behind it, a game to honor the dead of your mother, I have one word for you: respect. Respect man. Now, I noticed that both games were created in Construct. Are you using the same engine for this game?

Josip: Thank you. 🙂 Both of these games were made in Construct 2, and were created as a personal project. I don’t even know if I could call them games, but rather some sort of experiences that meant a lot to me personally. Marco Polo is being developed in Unity since it gives us more freedom from the technical sides of things.

Jonez: In our conversation, you talk about an open-world RPG. So, this point-and-click game isn’t the only title you are working on? What is this open-world RPG game or is it more a testing ground for possible future titles?

Josip: We are huge fans of Point & Click games and huge fans of RPG’s. We grew up on those games and always wanted to make our own worlds that others can enjoy with us. So, we are working on an open-world RPG system and have stories and concepts, but, we don’t like to rush ourselves, as we know how ambitious and big these projects are, and we would, of course, need a much bigger team. So before it happens, and we hope it will, there are other, smaller projects in mind, but we are going in that direction.

It’s very important for us to first understand how everything works and make many tests so we don’t waste time or get lost in the projects we’re developing, which makes the development much more enjoyable and better organized. So yes, we are making tests and preparations for other projects, but Marco Polo is a priority and is written as a trilogy. We are also huge fans of traditional drawing and animations, so I don’t think we will ever want to part with it. 🙂

Jonez: Now, let’s get back to The Uncharted Road of Marco Polo since that’s the game that I’m previewing with this article. I’m rather curious. Why about Marco Polo? If the game is set in Croatia and Marco Polo is a merchant from Italy. Of course, there is this debate about his birthplace might be Croatian as well… So, why the decision for Marco Polo?

Josip: The game is talking about historic figures and real places, and players will learn so much about Croatia from it, and while the game has many real things people can learn about, it’s story is fictional and we won’t get involved into that debate, but will rather focus on some other, more interesting aspects based on his life, and how to make an enjoyable story and experience in general. 🙂

Jonez: Are you developing this game full-time or are you developing this game on the side like the Corpse Party developers GrisGris? Also, how do you make sure that there is enough budget to create this game?

Josip: We are currently working in our free time, so that means that we also have other jobs, doing freelancing and helping each other out, but we believe that soon we’ll be able to work full time on the game, and when that happens, we will inform everyone about it. If we don’t get a publisher then we will definitely go Kickstarter with playable Demo, Trailer and some other interesting things in mind. So the game’s development is currently going smoothly without too many investments, but we will definitely depend on a publisher or Kickstarter later if we want to finish the game in a reasonable time.

We also don’t want to go on Kickstarter without having some quality content that people can enjoy before considering supporting us. 🙂

Jonez: You told me that there are, including you, 4 people working on this game. Can you tell us a bit more about the team and the talent in it?

Josip: Yes, there are 4 of us and we all have some projects behind us. There is Alen, our technical guy who makes sure all the systems work in general. Devis is our character artist and animator, and Andrija is our manager. I make backgrounds, write a story and making a game design in general, but we are all highly involved in each part of the development so there is a bit of everyone in every aspect of the game. Andrija, for example, came up with the idea of Marco Polo, so we all worked together to make a story that will fit the game’s mechanics.

There will be behind the scenes when it comes out. 🙂

Jonez: And as a final question, I would like to ask what are your favorite parts of being a game developer and what do you dislike in being a game developer.

Josip: I like how rewarding it can be. It sure isn’t easy to make a game and that’s why I started with those small ones. To build strong foundations and to be able to better understand it and move on to bigger projects. 

And the better I understand it and the more I know about the technical side, the more I can enjoy the creative parts of it, so I guess after every day of work you get rewarded with new knowledge and skills, and I find it very enjoyable.

The bad part of the development would definitely be one issue in the industry in general, and that’s the crunch. I’m not talking about a month or two of crunching, but about the developers who crunch for 6 months or more.

It’s not healthy and I believe that the health of those developers should be in the first place and by organizing yourself better before getting into developing a certain project would save many from that.

It’s a huge problem and something we want to avoid and not be a part of, so that’s one of the reasons for our long preparations and organization before the project even starts. I maybe went a bit off-topic with it, but I believe it’s very important to talk about it

Jonez: And with that, thank you Josip for the interview and the answers! Thank you for answering my silly questions and talking about games and development. I enjoyed it quite a lot.

Josip: Here’s a few words for the gamers out there. It is a huge compliment for us to be compared to a classic such as Broken Sword, as we saw many of you talk about it, and we are happy that you love what you see at this stage of development. It will maybe remind you of it, as we see it already do but I just want to say that we don’t want to be another Broken Sword in the end, as Broken Sword is a timeless classic and we don’t want to compete with it, nor I believe we can.

But what I believe is that we can make an enjoyable experience that will make your time worth playing it, a game on its own that we would like to play too, and that’s what we hope to achieve.

We want to make games like they used to be, or at least, make them feel like they used to be, and even though we are not the most experienced studio in the industry, we will give our best to make them worth your time, and try to be better with each one.

Thank you. 🙂

Jonez: And as a closing note, you can follow Josip’s personal projects over at his CrobbitArts Facebook page!

Ending of the article

And with that, I have to call this article a wrap. I want to thank Josip Makjanic for the interview and the material he provided for me to write this article. I’m quite hyped for this game and I can’t wait to play a demo or see more. Yes, I have quite the weak spot when it comes to well-crafted point-and-click adventure games. I love them more when there is a certain charm to it, like with this game.

This game looks to have quite some potential. Currently, we got only some screenshots and a teaser video and it’s already looking quite amazing. So, here is to Svarog Interactive, keep up the good work you guys! You can do it!

So, I’m curious. Do you think that this game is as interesting as I think? Have you noticed something I overlooked? Tell me in the comment section down below. And with that said, I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Game Quicky: All You Can Eat (Steam) ~ Are You Hungry?

all you can eatOfficial websiteSteam page

Some time ago, I published a press kit about a game that GameChunk is developing. This Croatian indie developer is creating a title called Trip the Ark Fantastic. Now, I discovered that this isn’t the first game developed by the studio. They created an adventure game called “All You Can Eat”. And that’s what this review is going to be about. The developers provided me with a press code for the game. And of course, in this review, you will get my 100% honest opinion on the game. In any case, let’s dive right into the comic game that’s “All You Can Eat”. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

The good meal.

20200222134458_1In this game, you play as a lazy slob that is living in a diner. A few years ago, the diner started doing an all-you-can-eat buffet for the low price of 2 bucks. The idea is that he can keep eating for free unless he leaves the diner. But after some peaceful time, disaster strikes and the chef Luigi gets an offer he can’t refuse. He is going to sell the diner for a million bucks to build a parking lot on it. So, now you have to get into action to try and save your precious diner from closing by collecting a million dollars as quickly as possible.

The humor and story of this game is spot on. It’s quite enjoyable and fun. There aren’t too many characters and they don’t get a lot of character development but the chosen stereotypes are just great. Now, after you have beaten the game for the first time, you get a new game plus. Here two of the developers explain a lot about the decisions that they took in creating this game and they tell a lot of interesting details I didn’t pick up in my playthrough.

You might have already picked this up from the screenshots in this article but the visual style is something unique. The developers tried to mimic the way that newspaper comics worked. Those three-panel comics you see in the newspaper. In the end, you can also print out your playthrough as a sort of comic book you can print out. This is an amazing feature that really surprised me. This also explains the reason why there isn’t any animation in the game. Otherwise, the whole printable comic idea wouldn’t work.

Now, this game is really short. You can finish this game in a few minutes. It’s possible to see and do everything in one or two hours of play. While you can argue that this is negative, I honestly think that this isn’t such a bad thing. Since the developers actually explained in their commentary that this game was a sort of taste test, to see if people were interested in this style of game.

Now, this game has been translated into German, Russian and Chinese. Thank you to the translators that made this possible. In addition to that, the additional options you have in the options menu to stop the camera shake, colorblind mode, mute the game and such are great additions. But I wonder why the colorblind mode was added since the whole game is in black/white. So, if somebody can explain this to me in the comments that would be amazing.

The controls of the game are quite simple. The only thing you will need to play this game is the mouse. You can use the left mouse button to interact, speak and combine items. When you use the right mouse button, the main character gives you his opinion on the object in question. This is also a very helpful hint system if you are stuck or new in the adventure game genre.

That funny bad aftertaste

20200222134511_1The sound design of this game is decent. Since this game didn’t have a big budget, the game doesn’t have any music and doesn’t have a lot of sound effects. Now, this in itself isn’t such a bad thing. Remember, you can print the story as a comic at the end and if the game relied on music or sound effects, the comic wouldn’t work at all. The negative part is that I wished there were a bit more ambient sound effects. Like some sizzling in the kitchen or some police radio noise in the police office.

The printable PDF is a cool feature but I had my mess up with my first playthrough. I was going to send it to the developers but something happened. I started the playthrough of new game plus for this review and that pdf overwrote my broken pdf. So, it’s possible that your comic printout gets a bit corrupted.

And if I’m allowed to nitpick, the fact that the game hangs and seems frozen when the pdf is being created is a bit annoying. From a programmer standpoint, I totally understand what’s happening. The game is creating the pdf in the background and it freezes the game to make sure there are no additional variables that can interfere with the creation. Now, I would have moved the screen to the visual of “please wait while your PDF is printed” while the PDF is being printed. Not after. At first, I was going to ALT+F4 the game since I thought it had completely frozen.

Now, one other minor nitpick is that the game didn’t close right away when I exited the game. Steam kept saying that I was playing the game while I was unable to find anything running while using the task manager. Maybe it takes a long time to shut down the PDF engine in the background?

There is one minor thing that I dislike about the printable PDF. And that is the fact you don’t see which question or reply was picked by the player. This makes that some jokes like the name of the dinner chef looses a bit of their impact.

Sadly enough, there is one somewhat game-breaking bug in the game. Thankfully, it doesn’t ruin your save file but it confuses the game enough you get into a loop of empty screens. This can be achieved when you use the right mouse button on the empty sign in the MegaSlime Corp. I think this might be caused by a conflict in the code. But, when you move on to a blank square… The best action is to pause the game and resume with the continue option. That seems to fix it. Thankfully, it’s the only location where it happens.

And that brings me to the last nitpick of the game. There is no clickable button to pause the game. You have to use the “ESC” key to get to the pause menu. But, I totally understand why this decision has been made. Since, if you create a button that’s always on screen, I don’t want to imagine the effort that needs to go make sure that it doesn’t appear on the printable pdf.

The rating in the newspaper

This game is short and it’s possible to get all the achievements in 1 or 2 hours if you are familiar with point-and-click adventure games. But, this game is a big breath of fresh air in my opinion. I really enjoyed the references and throwbacks of the plot. The story made me laugh several times.

Visually, this game reminds me of a simpler time. When I was drawing story ideas in my textbooks in the study hall or during a boring class. Or when I was reading comics on a rainy Sunday afternoon. I think my weakness for nostalgia really made this game even better for me.

It’s a shame that there I have a few minor nitpicks with the game. Most of them I can totally understand why the decision has been made. Expect the game-breaking bug, that’s something I wish was fixed.

Even with the game-breaking bug, I still fully recommend this game. It’s an amazing demonstration of what this style of game can do. The potential for this concept is endless. Imagine being able to share your adventures with other players or creating your own comic book. It’s the ultimate merchandising.

It was quite difficult to find things I didn’t like about this game apart from the extremely short length. I want to play more games in this style and I’m happy that I can talk about this game and spread the word. Since there is another game announced called “The Heist” that looks extremely promising.

So yeah, I think this game is totally worth your 2 bucks and with that, you get a coupon to an amazing concept that gives the taste for more. Thank you GameChunk for bringing this game to Steam! I can’t wait to see what your other projects are going to bring us.

And with that, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. Thank you so much for reading this game and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Score: 90/100

Editorial note: The developers of this game got a draft of this review and might fix the game-breaking bug in the future.

Game Quicky: Baba Is You (Switch) ~ Review Is Win

Official websiteNintendo.com subsite

So, what if a game developer falls in love with the game he created for a game jam? Well, some of those developers make their game into a fully-fledged game like the developer behind Baba is You. Arvi Teikari created the basic concept for this game for a Game Jam. The Jam version is free, but for a more expanded version, you have to pay around 15 dollars. But, is this puzzle game worth your time or was it better as a Jam Game? Let’s take a first impression and quick look at the game that has been released on PC and Switch. The version I’m reviewing is the Switch version. 

The good

One of the main reasons I’m writing a review for this game in my game quicky style is because this game doesn’t have a story. So, I have less to critique which makes for a shorter article. But, why am I mentioning this with the good points? Well, that’s simple. The lack of a story in this game is actually a rather enjoyable thing.

Since this game is a really meta puzzle game, writing a story for this game would be a huge hindrance. It would be too silly or it would take itself too seriously. Also, it puts the focus on the unique gameplay of the game and that’s all that matters.

The gameplay of this game is extremely addictive. The idea of this game is that you finish the level by hitting the object that “Is Win”. So, how do you that? Well, by manipulating almost everything in the level. You can see the basic idea at work in the gif I attached to this article (source: official website of the game).

You see “Pillar is Push”, so that means that you can push around the pillar. Off-screen, there is “Water is Sink”, so you sink/die when you touch the water. Now, something that’s unique is that the text can also be moved. So, you can make: “Pillar is You” as well. And that means that you control both Baba and the pillar.

As long as you make real sentences, the game will act accordingly. Now, there is no real tutorial in the game but the game is divided into sections. The first few stages of a level are introductory levels to the mechanics that the level is going to use. And, these training levels are needed since this game can get pretty challenging.

Mark Brown from Game Maker’s Toolkit explained how smart this game is in his video where he praised this game as his most innovative game of 2019. And I have to agree, this game challenges the most veteran players to finish each level. And sometimes the level is stupidly simple while you look over the solution multiple times. It’s such a rewarding feeling when you finally beat a stage that you were stuck on for so long. Something I enjoyed quite a lot was when a friend and I were figuring out puzzles together. Discussing strategies and trying to figure out how each puzzle worked.

Now, I can keep praising the gameplay for a long time here. But, take it from me. If you enjoy puzzle games or great brain teasers, this is the game for you. But is the rest of the game any good? In the visuals department, I can only give you one answer and that’s yes!

Compared to the Game Jam build, this game got a visual overhaul. From a cuter main character to better animations. It’s all here. I personally think that Baba is a sort of white rabbit/cat hybrid animal. In this version, the improved animations give the player more information instead of the rather static look of the original game.

There are barely any sound effects in the game. But, that’s no big issue. Since it would destroy the atmosphere of the game if the developer added sound effects for the calm water or lava. It would be a bit too much. The music, on the other hand, is amazing. It’s rather calming and soothing to listen too. It’s a trance soundtrack that relaxes you to think outside of the box to find the answer more easily.

Controlling this game is also a blast. I rarely had any issues with the controls. The fact that you only need a few buttons makes the game easy to understand. All you need to know is how to move Baba, how to undo an action or how to wait. You can press the “A” button to wait for an object to either teleport, move, jump… while you are standing still.

Now, yes, I’m praising this game to the moon and back. But, does that mean it’s flawless? Sadly enough, no. I have a few things that I have to mention in my negatives section. 😦

The bad

Now, the game makes a few minor mistakes that might be called nitpicks. First of all, there is something I really dislike about the UI. You are stuck to the level layout. That means that you can’t move freely over the screen when selecting levels. This can make navigating in the level select a bit tricky.

You get a flower when you finish a level in a stage. Whenever you finished around 6 stages in a level, you can go on to the next level. But sometimes, you earn sun symbols. And it’s never clear when you are going to win which symbol. This is extremely annoying when you are only one sun-symbol removed from opening that one gate that’s blocking that one world.

Now, since when is the “B” button a select button? In almost every game I play, the “B” button is a cancel button. Not in this game, it’s a selection button. My brain is so hardwired to press B to go back to the world map, I get extremely confused when I suddenly enter a level or select an option that I didn’t want to select.

Something that I think would be great is a sort of hint system. This game could have used a help system where the user could unlock a hint after a certain amount of time. Sadly enough, you are on your own in this game. Oh well, thankfully there are walkthroughs when I really want to know the solution to one level.

And yes, that are all the negatives of this game. So, let’s wrap this article up and let’s go to the conclusion.

Conclusion

I can totally understand that this game isn’t for everybody. This game is for people who really enjoy solving brain-melting puzzles or extremely unique indie games. The game is extremely charming and enjoyable. The addictiveness of this game has that one more try mentality. And as soon as you find the solution, you get that rush of adrenaline.

I really meant what I said in my tweet in January. I think there are huge chances that this game will be in my top 10 games of 2020 list. I enjoyed my time with the game, the visuals, the soundtrack, and the gameplay that much.

So, give this game a try! It’s totally worth your time in my opinion. And not only that, 10% of the game’s profits go to charity which is an extremely nice move of the developer. Even for an indie developer.

There are a few minor things that this game does wrong but honestly, I think they can be fixed with a patch or a feature update easily. Especially the “B” button thing since I found that extremely annoying.

And with that said, I think I have said everything about this game I wanted to say. Thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. I hope you have a great rest of your day and take care!

Score: 100/100

First Impression: Soul Warrior Merope (PC) ~ Featuring The Developer

SnLGTK

Itch.io pageDeveloper TwitterTrailer

Today I’m going to write a special article. Last year, a friend of mine created a game called “Soul Warrior Merope“. At first, he wanted to create this game for mobile platforms but due to some technical difficulties, the game has been released on PC. I promised him to write an article about the game to promote and here we are. I’m sorry mate that it took so long for me to get around to it, but better late than never. So, I think it would be quite fun to review this game interview style. Yes, interview style. So, I wrote a sort of review where I asked the developer to respond to why he created the game in a certain way and things of that nature. So, introducing Priom from HatCatGames, the developer of this game.

Before I begin, I have to give some disclosure. I have helped Priom testing a previous build of the game while he was developing the game. I only gave him some advice to improve the quality of his game. But, this was when he was still developing it for mobile platforms.

Editorial note: Some friends call me Neko, others call me Jonez. If Priom mentions Jonez, he means me.

Jonez: Before we start, feel free to introduce yourself Priom. Tell us a bit about yourself and why you started developing games. Have you created other games before Soul Warrior Merope? How long was the development process for the game?

Priom: Well, I’m Quazi Fahian Muntakim. Better known as Priom or Bear Gril if you only know me on select social media platforms. I’m currently a university student from Bangladesh and a hobbyist game dev.

As for how I got here, well, I think you bore witness to some of it, Jonez. I love video games always have. Fun fact, our family was one of the earliest to adopt a computer for consumer use in Bangladesh. So I always had a love for games. Especially Side-Scrollers and RPGs.

But I think the want to make my own game for others to enjoy. And to weave interesting stories that can only be done in this medium. I think that idea started in 2012 when one of our mutual friends introduced us to RPG MAKER. And that desire kept growing until I joined the GMTK Game Jam 2017 and felt like I wanted to make something that’s available for just about anyone to play!

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Jonez: Visually, this game looks like it was created on the NES or with a sort of pixel-art style in mind. I quite like the visual style of the while. Why did you choose for this visual style? I noticed that the castle has a lot of darker tones and the outside is more colorful. Is the art style inspired by other games or franchises?

Priom: Well again, much like you, I love retro games. Some of my fondest memories come from the GBA, which also had a lot of ports for SNES games. So of course, I wanted to follow that style. Other than that I feel like pixel-art has become an art form in itself in recent times, rather than being a product of limited hardware. So choosing this particular style was a no-brainer.

As for inspiration, I can think of 2. Team Cherry’s “Hollow Knight” and Bombservice’s “Momodora” franchise. Both of them have a cutesy yet somewhat grim art-style which I absolutely adore. Other than that, I have had people mention the castle interiors remind them of “Prince of Persia” for the DOS. I wasn’t exactly trying to replicate that but perhaps it was a subconscious decision, hmm?

Jonez: The game tells a story about a young strong lady Merope looking for two missing children. A mysterious figure called Madd has something to do with it. So, are you in Madd’s castle or lair? How involved is the story, is it extremely present or does it take a backseat while the visuals and gameplay tell most of the story?

Priom: Well, since it is at the very start of the story. I guess I could tell you. The castle belonged to Arthur, the tiny glowing spirit following you around. But he and his people have been long dead. So Madd is using Arthur’s castle as a hideout.

As for the story, I was going for a bit of a free-fall route. The idea was to make an opening with a strong yet simple premise that I can add on to later. So the story’s presence is like that too. Where there’s a lot happening at the start after that you get to experience the story at your own pace while exploring the castle.

I’d like to mention that I do want to make games with more plot later on. I’ve actually gotten into the habit of having a notepad on my person and taking notes whenever ideas pop up.

Jonez: So, you can name your own price on Itch.IO for this game. Basically, the consumer can pay anything they want. Does this decision have a special reason?

Priom: The reason was simple. As this is the first game I made public like this I wanted as many people to play it as possible! It also provides an opportunity for more people to provide feedback. And I have been receiving useful feedback. So it all works out.

Jonez: In some cases, the game is a bit rough around the edges. Like hitboxes of objects only reacting to the tip of the sword or not having a jumping animation. Game development isn’t an easy task and there are so many things to keep in mind while creating a game. What did you focus on while developing?

Priom: Well, the game was rather *experimental* is how I’d put it. If there was anything I wanted to try that could help me further later on then I took it as being worth it. Which might have resulted in some things being a bit subpar than others I’d admit. But I’d like to think even the shortcomings are valuable learning experiences. You don’t realize certain things until others point them out or you relax your mind a bit.

Jonez: Now, I have a sort of related question. Let’s say that you had all the knowledge, time and resources to change a few things in the game. Which things would you change and why would you change them?

Priom: The checkpoint system. It would’ve gone bye-bye in exchange for a more standard system. It was fine at first but it managed to create more and more restrictions as the game got more fleshed out.

As for additions, I would probably just made the castle bigger with more visual lore added. I’d add a better catalog of info and a more informative UI. Along with lots of tweaks for the melee combat from experiences I gained from Game Jams I joined later down the line.

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Jonez: The game plays like a Metroidvania, where you have to get new abilities and get stronger to progress. Was it easy to find mechanics that set your game apart like using lives for your special abilities or did you had to try a lot of ideas?

Priom: As I said. Soul Warrior Merope was born from the GMTK Game Jam 2017. Which was a 2-day jam where you have to make a game under a theme? The main theme of that jam a single mechanic with multiple functions. The other abilities kind of grew from that original idea.

Jonez: Let’s talk about the music and sound design. While there aren’t too many sound effects in the game, how did you decide which sound effects to include or not include?

Priom: I think there are 8 music tracks in total. An intro, 5 for the five major areas, the boss theme which has 3 variations based on which boss you’re fighting and a track used for a very specific ending. All of the tracks are long enough so that you’ll pass through the area before the songs loop too many times.

As for sound effects, I actually like to believe that you should have enough recognizable SFX that someone can make a guess as to what’s happening blindfolded. In that sense, I would’ve preferred to add more SFX if I had more time too. But what’s chosen is the ones that are absolutely necessary to convey what’s going on, granted as long as they don’t sound bad.

Jonez: So, you told me once that you were creating the game in YoYo Games’ GameMaker: Studio. Why did you choose that engine? Apart from that program, which tools did you use and for what? Did you run into any trouble?

Priom: Well, I think it was in 2015 or earlier when my younger brother told me that Game Maker Studio’s Standard Edition was free. I was still using RPG Maker at that time but found it rather restricting. I did not, however, have much coding knowledge since my educational curriculum at that time only involved some basic C++ and HTML. So, a programmable engine for free was a generally risk-free investment. After using it I found a YouTuber by the name of HeartBeast who has some amazing tutorials that I definitely recommend for people starting out. And well I kinda just got used to the engine and bought the pro version.

Other than that, I used Piskel & Paint.Net for the art, LMMS+Audacity for audio and my younger brother, who was responsible for some of the art such as the UI and menu icons, used Aseprite.

As for the issues we faced, as time’s going on Game Maker Studio 1.x is becoming more and more obsolete. Google’s new policy doesn’t allow 32-bit apps on the play store anymore which means the game couldn’t be put into the platform. Not to mention, it didn’t provide me with a proper description of why the Android export stopped functioning too. It’s still pretty good for PC games though.

Jonez: The game isn’t that easy, you really have to learn the various abilities of your character and explore around. How did you decide to balance the game?

Priom: Well, that was the reasoning behind letting the player explore around so many of the different areas from the get-go. The game is actually less linear than initial impressions may imply. The idea is that if you get stuck in a certain place it’s perfectly fine to explore another place and through the use of the abilities you have at that moment you might be able to take a completely different route than the intended route of the game.

Jonez: Do you have any plans for the game? Do you plan on updating the game with new content, bug fixes, improvements…?

Priom: Initially, after making the game public like this. I wanted to keep it like that. But I’ve mentioned on twitter recently that I haven’t coded anything in the engine for a while due to my PC being broken. So changing certain things based on all the responses I received might be good for me to get back on track. But that all is uncertain. I do have plans on making larger and more polished games using the valuable lessons learned from the experience of making Soul Warrior Merope though. So I’d like to end this by thanking everyone who decided to give the game a shot. Thank you!

End of the interview

rMFJZW

And with that all said, I found this quite an enjoyable experience to write an article like this. Maybe if I have the time, I might write another one on a different game. In any case, I want to thank my buddy Priom quite a lot for giving me the chance to be a part of his dream and giving me the chance of writing this special article with him.

So, I highly recommend that you give this game a try. It might be a bit experimental and a bit rough around the edges but I honestly think that this won’t be his last project and any constructive feedback you send him, he can use to become an even better developer. On top of that, his very first game is pretty enjoyable and has quite a lot of charm.

And with that, thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in a future article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Game Quicky: The Pepper Prince 1 – The Seasoning – Episode 2: The Sadness (PC) ~ Let The Rhyme Continue

logoSteam Store page

Back in March, I took a look at the ASCII adventure game called the Pepper Prince Seasoning 1 Episode 1. In that game, a lot of rhyme is used to tell the story. Recently, the second episode of that game got released. I wanted to write an article and release it right on the day of the release of the second episode, but a lot of real-life things came in between. For full disclosure, I got a press key for the second episode of the game and like with the first episode, the developers want that I write my 100% honest opinion. So, that’s what you will get in this review. In any case, let’s dive right into the second episode that continues right where the first episode left off. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

The good

pepper prince episode 2Now, the second episode will automatically unlock when you finish the first episode. The second episode is called: “The Sadness.” It’s a very fitting title for the episode if you know how the first episode ended. When the episode starts, you get a small and quick reminder of what went down in the first episode. This is quite handy since it’s close to two months ago that I played the first one.

I’m going to be careful talking about the story of the second episode so that I don’t spoil anything about the first episode. In this episode, a few questions are answered that rose up in the first episode, but a bigger mystery is unfolding. Especially with the wording of certain characters, you get the impression there are hiding something.

The gameplay is quite similar compared to the first episode. Yet, in this episode, a new mechanic is added. Combining items. This mechanic adds some depth to the game and makes the game a bit more difficult. The first episode was quite easy in my opinion and this mechanic adds some challenge. Now, the solution for the puzzles can be already in your inventory.

As in the first episode, there are several puzzles. But unlike the first episode, the puzzles are quite harder in this episode. There is more challenge in the second episode. To be honest, I got stuck at a certain point, but my girlfriend actually found the solution quite easily. If you are stuck, think outside of the box or just talk to the various NPCs in the town, they might also have useful information.

There are also a few new achievements in this second episode. I still love the fact that there is an achievement that encourages speedrunning the game. Since this game doesn’t have a lot of replay value, this achievement still adds a bit of that.

The visuals of this episode are as pleasingly retro as the first episode. In addition to that, the colors of the objects can be distinguished easily so people who are colorblind won’t have issues with that. And if the contrast between the colors isn’t large enough, the mouse cursor even changes when you can interact with an object.  The fact that some parts of the episode or slightly animated to for example simulate the waves of the sea hitting the beach, adds a lot to the atmosphere of the game.

The bad

ViewThere is one thing that I really disliked about the inventory system. It didn’t reset. So, all the items that you had in the first episode are still there. In most modern adventure games, the items you don’t need anymore in the next section of the game are taken out of your inventory. If this happened in this episode as well, it would have made it a bit easier to manage the inventory. Then again, there are one or two puzzles where you need those old items… In any case, I think that this could have been handled better.

While the combine mechanic breaths some fresh air into the gameplay, I don’t like the mess it makes of my inventory. I think it would have been better if the inventory is and stays alphabetized or something in that nature.

The graphics may be charmingly retro, the text can be uneasy on the eyes for some people. For myself, it isn’t too big of a problem, but my girlfriend complained after a while that the text became hard to read.

My girlfriend noticed something I didn’t notice in the previous episode. It’s a minor thing but it can still take you out of the experience. The fact that you use the option “ASK ABOUT…” to milk a cow is a bit awkward don’t you think?

While the puzzles in the second episode where a lot more challenging, one or two puzzles in the second episode were pretty frustrating. Some hints were a bit too vague for my liking. Especially since sometimes one NPC can give the correct clue while the others always give the same reply. I got stuck three times during the game and didn’t know what to do or what could be the possible answer. Now, eventually I was able to get past those puzzles, but I felt the first episode flowed a bit better… yet, on the other hand, the first episode was a bit too easy.

The conclusion

Overall, the second episode is an excellent continuation of the first episode. With the newly added mechanics and the improved puzzles, this game became a bit more fun to play. But, the game could use some minor polish like a better inventory listing and a minor bit of polishing of the script.

I really liked the additional details in the visual department and the music is still quite enjoyable to listen too. I think that if you enjoyed the first episode of this game, you will enjoy the second episode as well. Now, if you are stuck somewhere, feel free to leave a comment, I’m willing to help.

For now, I won’t give this game a score just yet, I’ll do that when I have finished all the episodes of this game. But for now, it’s looking quite good. And I’m looking forward to the 3rd episode.

And that’s everything I wanted to say about the second episode for now. Thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Review: Captain Disaster in: Death Has A Million Stomping Boots (PC) ~ In Outer space We Click

captain disaster death has a millionOfficial Itch.io page

Besides visual novels, one of my favorite genres is the adventure & point-and-click genre. Games like Broken Sword, Another Code R, Time Hollow, and Adera to name just a few are amazing games. When I got invited to take a look at an indie point-and-click game, I didn’t hesitate twice. The game is a labor of love created by two developers, which makes it even more impressive. While I got a review copy of this game, but the developers wanted that I give my 100% honest opinion. And that’s this article, my 100% honest opinion. In any case, the captain needs us. Since he is going on another wacky adventure. And per usual, feel free to leave a comment about the content of this article and/or this game in the comment section down below.

 In outer space, we click.

Captian Disaster 3As I already mentioned, this game is an adventure point-and-click game. The game is similar to games like Escape From Monkey Island or Broken Sword were the focus is less on the story but more on solving the puzzles in your way to progress the story.

In this game, you take on the role of the quirky Captain Disaster. He is tasked with delivering a package from one planet to another. Now, what the Captain doesn’t know is that the package is actually quite dangerous and has the potential to bring the whole galaxy in a lot of trouble.

It’s quite obvious that this game drew a lot of inspiration from the old school LucasArts and Sierra games. The humor is very similar to a game from Monkey Island and some parts even reminded me of Revolution Software’s Broken Sword series.

The story of this game is one where you don’t need to take it too seriously. While there is a lot of sci-fi in this game, the game doesn’t go overboard with exposition dumps or trying to explain every single detail or mechanic in the world. It’s a breath of fresh air to not have to learn a ton of new terms to be able to understand the game and/or the world.

Now, I know that this game didn’t have a huge development budget. It’s even referenced in the game itself. But I feel that the voice acting could have been better. The voice acting is not bad nor is it good. There are a lot of great moments in the voice acting. For example, the alien language and sounds are consistent and sound like an actual language. But, the voice acting makes, in my opinion, a fatal flaw.

Besides playing games and writing articles for this blog, one of my main hobbies Is acting in stage plays in a folk theatre group. One thing I learned is how to put intonation in your voice. When I listened to the voice acting again as if I was watching a stage play, I noticed with the voice acting sounded off to me. Some parts of the voice acting are too monotone. Now, the actual voices and accents of the voice work are well done but I felt the voice actors could have put a lot more intonation in their voice work. Especially when a whole dialogue is spoken at the same tone for minutes, then a bit more intonation would have been welcome.

Compare it to a teacher that’s explaining a subject in class. A good teacher puts intonation in their voice to try and get the attention of the students. When a teacher constantly speaks in the same tone, the students will get bored or worse, fall asleep.

Also, in some areas… some dialogues weren’t audio mixed too well. I had a few spots were some voice-over was louder than all the other voice-overs.

Now, if you don’t like the voice acting, you can turn that off in the options menu. You can choose between either subtitles, voice-over or both. I played throughout the whole game with both. I only noticed in the introduction of the game that two lines of voice-over didn’t have a subtitle. Right when the lights go out.

In this game, you explore various locations like a rubbish dump, a robot bar, and your own space ship. The pacing of this game is rather well done. Except, one minor thing bugged me. The lengths of the acts are a bit off. The second act was extremely short. One you knew what to do, you were able to blaze through it. While the first and third act took me a bit longer.

Now, in outer space, we click. And we don’t only click, we find a lot of references. There are a lot of references to franchises like Futurama, Star Wars, Jaws and Space Odyssey to just name a few of them. To be honest, there are a bit too many references for my taste. But, it’s something personal since I’m not that familiar with all the source material it’s referencing. I have played other games with a lot of references like The Legend of Zelda – Spirit Tracks that had a lot of references to previous games in the series and I quite enjoyed that. So yeah, I wasn’t the right crowd for all the references but I’m sure that fans of sci-fi will get a kick out of them.

Look, I’m an artist!

Captian Disaster 2You might have noticed it from the screenshots but the visual presentation gives off a dated impression. And this is on purpose. The visual presentation is a throwback to the older point-and-click games like Space Quest and King’s Quest. In my opinion, the visual presentation has a certain retro charm to it. It really adds to the atmosphere and charm that the developers wanted with their game. It really fits the game like a glove. Now, the trade-off for that is that this art style will turn off some players. It’s a shame really.

The animations as well are pretty basic. But, this isn’t a bad thing. It still adds to the charm. I really like it when games that have a retro-inspired art style don’t use animations that wouldn’t be possible in that area. So, great job on that!

There are a few minor visual things that could have been improved. For example, the arrows to the sides don’t always change when there is more in your inventory then what’s able to be displayed. Another example is that the “BACK” button in the pause menu, the “K” looks a bit too much like an “H”. And a final example, the “L” in the title cards of the acts miss the top line of the texture which makes them stand out a bit too much. Now, all in all, these are minor things. These don’t hinder the experience of the game too much in my opinion.

Yet, there is one part of the visual presentation that could have been improved. At the start of the second act, I got stuck. I didn’t realize you were able to go the left to another area. It would be quite helpful if either the arrow point changed or if there was something visual to show that there was a door. There are a few areas that have this issue. In the Robot Bar, for example, I didn’t know you had another room to the right you could go right away too. Since the area looks like it’s roped off. Yet, sometimes when I go to the edge of the screen, the game tells me that I can go to another area.

Another minor nitpick is that when you click on an item and you click on the menu, the item will still be in use. But, this only happened to me twice during the whole playthrough.

ZB, Come in! We have a puzzle here!

Captian Disaster 1In this game, you will get a lot of crazy things in your inventory. If you ever get stuck, the method of trying everything on anything always works. Some puzzles were quite annoying to solve. For example, there is a puzzle where you need to place 5 things on a motherboard, but when you click on a place where the components won’t go, you will need to reselect them.

All in all, this game isn’t too difficult and not too long. This game took me around 4 – 5 hours to complete. I was able to fully complete this game without touching my keyboard apart from giving a name to my save files. Now, this game does have an autosave but I save on some weird locations. For example, it saves right near the end of the first chapter but it doesn’t save automatically at the start of the second chapter. So, do yourself a favor and save manually.

The controls for this game are quite simple. You click with the left mouse button to interact with the world. You can use the right mouse click to inspect an item. You will need to inspect a lot of things for clues on what you need to do in order for you to progress. Also, you will need to combine some items. Personally, I kept some notes on what I needed to do in order to progress. It helped me to get through a lot of puzzles.

Now, something I really missed was the ability to move the captain with something else than the mouse. There are a few timed puzzles and it would have been great if I was able to move him with the arrow keys. It would have been especially helpful with the last section of the game since you needed to go off-screen and it wasn’t always clear if the captain was still walking or not.

Most likely due to the engine of this game, ALT+F4 and things of those nature don’t work. You can ALT+TAB out of the game but if you want to close the game, you will have to go through the very easy to use menu system. You can open the menu system by clicking the gear icon in the upper right of your screen.

The music in this game is hit and miss in my opinion. There are a few tracks I really liked but there were bits of the soundtrack that I didn’t like at all. Thankfully, there were no sound effects that are bad. These were all pretty good.

Before I go to my final thoughts of this game and this review, I want to mention something funny. Some games have this quirk while others don’t have this quirk. When you need to move a character with your mouse and the animation is bound to the mouse click, that means if you spam click, the animation resets. It was quite funny to see the captain sort of floating or shuffling instead of walking when I spam clicked around.

If you think that this game is interesting, this game only costs 9 dollars. But, if you want to try it first, there is a demo of the first hour of the game up on the official website of the game. Go and check it out. But now, it’s time ZB. Time for my final thoughts.

Conclusion

The bad:

  • The automatic save system could have been better.
  • The visuals on where you can go aren’t always there.
  • The voice-over work could have used a bit more work. Sound mixing and a bit too flat and monotone.

The good:

+ Charming visual design.

+ Great puzzles.

+ Goofy story.

+ The number of references.

+ …

Final thoughts:

Now, is this game bad? No. Is this game good? Almost. If there was a bit more polish to the visual presentation and the voice-over work, I would say that this game is good. Now, I found it a pretty decent point-and-click adventure game.

It’s not the worst nor is it the best I have ever played. But, I still do recommend this game to avid fans of retro games and especially of old school point-and-click adventures. It’s impressive that most of this game is created by two developers and it got this result. It clearly shows that this game has been created as a labor of love. It actually made me want to play and take a look at the other games in the series.

I want to thank the developers of this game to introduce me to this game. It was a great ride to play this game. I think you are on the right track in making amazing games but there is still a lot of room for improvement. I think you are ready to push the next games of the captain even further. To make them even better and to give him an even crazier adventure.

And that was all for this review. I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you again in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 70/100

Game Quicky: The Pepper Prince – Episode 1 (PC) ~ Rhyming For A Cake

headerOfficial Steam pageDeveloper’s website

Quite often I get indie developers requesting me to take a look at their game. Today I want to talk about a game called “The Pepper Prince” which is an episodic adventure fully created in ASCII art. At the moment, there are 5 episodes planned and only the first episode has been released. Full disclosure, the developers provided me with a press key for this review. And as usual, in this article, you will find my 100% honest opinion. So, let’s get backing and rhyming for a wedding cake of two princes. Yes, princes. And also, as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game in the comment section down below.

The positives

pp-7The story in this game is very quirky. It’s completely written in rhyme and it’s enjoyable to read through. The humor, charm, and pacing is just on point.

The only minor thing is that the story was over before I knew it, it was that well-crafted, it drew me in that much that I forgot that each episode contains only one hour of gameplay. I’m now even more excited to play the following parts of the story.

The gameplay of this game is quite enjoyable. It’s a great point-and-click game where you need to look for items to help other characters that in turn help you to progress your quest. The “TO DO” list in the journal was a great help when I didn’t know what my next steps would be.

The visual presentation isn’t for everybody. I can totally imagine some players looking at the ASCII art and skipping this game. But not for this retro gamer, oh no! While playing this game, I felt like I looked up my old-school retro gaming PC and I was playing those old DOS games during those wintery nights with a cup of hot chocolate and a warm blanket wrapped around me. This game leaves a lot up to the imagination and I love it when games pull this off well.

The music in this game adds to the old school charm. The only thing I would recommend to the developers is that there is an option to have more MIDI music playing. It would just make the whole experience that more perfect.

The difficulty in this game is just right. Thanks to the journal, you have a great list of all the things you have to do. You can always ask about various tasks to all the characters that often point you in the right direction. While this game doesn’t have a mini-map screen, the characters point you in the right direction by saying things like: “I have seen him go west.” and things like that. Now, this game isn’t too challenging. As a matter of fact, it’s quite easy and relaxing actually.

The negatives

pp-2Now, this game is very well created. But, there are some things I would change in a future update or for the following episodes.

I’m quite happy to see an achievement for speedrunners. You get an achievement when you are able to finish the first episode in 15 minutes. Now, I totally miss one option that would make this even more helpful. A timer. Yes, a timer so speedrunners can keep track of the time and know when they need to restart when they aren’t going to make the 15-minute mark.

Something I would personally change is the color of either the items you can pick up and the characters. At the moment, they use the same color. This confused me a few times, thinking that an item was a character I could interact with. In addition to that, a small sound effect when you get something in your inventory would be a great addition.

This whole game is controlled by the mouse. Something that would add quite a lot to the charm of this game is if you were able to use the keyboard to control this game to some extent. Since a lot of old school DOS games don’t support the mouse. But that might be just my preference.

Conclusion

This game nailed the charm of an old school DOS game perfectly. The game is enjoyable and great to play through.

The game also has a lot of potentials and with a few changes, the game can become even better.

If you are into point-and-click games and or into old school DOS games, I highly recommend this game. Like I said earlier in my article, I was pulled into the charm and story of this game so much, I forgot that the game is quite short. It made me even more excited to play the upcoming episodes of this game. I want to see how the story will continue and where it takes me next.

The game is also quite cheap on Steam, so I think you have no excuse to give this game a go. I enjoyed the relaxing gameplay. I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

pepper prince 1

 

Publishing: Be Part Of History With Rise Of Ages

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Rise of Ages is a sandbox game that lets you explore, build, found cities, make wars and evolve technologies to reach the highest level of civilization and then travel to other planets! The game begins in prehistory and advances through ages, as the player evolves. In each era, the player will live a unique story, which will lead him to face dangerous dungeons and powerful enemies. Several building blocks and items will allow the player to create their own culture with unique structures.

History

Development of Rise of Ages began in early 2015, the team has dedicated all its time and effort since then to bring the game to life. Late 2016 a public demo was released at GameJolt to see public reception. The team kept working on the game and is preparing to launch the game on early access.

Features

  • Evolve from stone age to space age, going through a total of six eras.
  • Discover new technologies, each one expanding your possibilities. There are more than 30 of them.
  • Found your civilization and call NPCs to live there. A city is just the beginning, claim other cities through war and build an empire.
  • Each NPC will have a job and will work for you. They can specialize in a profession and become better at it. You can even create a supply chain.
  • Experience a unique story on each age through dozens of quests and multiple side quests.
  • Fight bosses that are powerful enemies and unimaginable beings.
  • Craft multiple objects from your hands or from your skilled workers.
  • Explore the world beyond the limits, going through the left/rightmost side of a region will leave you to the World Map that connects multiple regions of the world.


Check out the last public demo of Rise of Ages. gamejolt.com.


About Anguis Game Studio

Boilerplate
Anguis Game Studio is an independent game studio based in Porto Alegre, Brazil. We are working on our first title Rise of Ages

More information
More information on Anguis Game Studio, our logo & relevant media are available here.


Rise of Ages Credits

Michel Alves: Founder & Programmer

Ronaldo Boeira: Founder & Artist

Contact

Inquiries: contact@anguis.net

Twitter: twitter.com/AnguisStudio

Facebook: facebook.com/anguisstudio

Web: anguis.net

More information can be found in the press kit located here: http://playriseofages.com/presskit/sheet.php?p=Rise%20of%20Ages

The game is released on Steam TODAY: https://store.steampowered.com/app/744270/Rise_of_Ages/